What is the Global Climate Strike?

Hinsdale Central's Natasha Bhatia watched a biology class documentary sophomore year on ocean acidification, caused by an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from human activity.

It prompted her own sea change.

"That made me realize how severe this problem is, how urgent it is and how little work was being done to resolve it," she said.

Two years later, the Red Devil senior is co-head of Fridays For Future Chicago, the local chapter of an international movement founded by environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Tomorrow, Sept. 15, Bhatia will help lead the group's Global Climate Strike from 4 to 6 p.m. in Chicago. Attendees will march from Pritzker Park to the offices of several businesses and governmental organizations to call for the end of fossil fuel use, protection for the country's natural resources and other measures. This is the third Global Climate Strike held in Chicago, and Bhatia is anticipating the biggest turnout yet.

"We've got representatives from multiple organizations from around Illinois planning this strike together," Bhatia said.

Counterparts around the world are mobilizing similar actions in an effort to get the attention of world leaders.

"We want President Biden to declare a climate emergency," Bhatia declared.

In addition to the signs and banners proclaiming their demands, a climate-oriented parody version of the Imagine Dragons song "Radioactive" was composed by Bhatia's Central classmates.

"The idea is that everyone there is going to learn the lyrics and we're all going to sing this song," she said. "That can help engage people who aren't necessarily involved in climate issues yet."

Bhatia intends to be among the rally's speakers, leveraging the oratory skills she's honed as a member of Central's mock trial team.

"I learned I could use my voice to make a difference in urgent movements that I really care about."

Last month Bhatia was a guest on WBEZ's "Reset with Sasha-Ann Simons" radio program to discuss the strike and recent developments that have demonstrated young people's power to effect change, including successfully winning a recent court ruling in Montana to require climate change to be considered when approving or renewing future fossil fuel projects in the state.

"Our generation is probably one of the most climate aware generations," she said. "We really need to be united around climate as a priority."

In December Bhatia will travel to Dubai to attend the United Nations Climate Conference, called COP 28. She was selected as a member of It's Our Future, a program that empowers Chicago area high school students to advocate for climate solutions and their futures.

"We get to collect voices from our communities and represent them to the global decision-makers," she said.

One doesn't have to go halfway around the world to be a change agent. Planting sustainability gardens, choosing reusable products and voting for climate-advocate candidates in elections are all worthwhile steps.

"Be environmentally aware," Bhatia urged. "You never know where it might lead you."

- by Ken Knutson

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean